U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2006 - Bahamas
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||15 September 2006|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2006 - Bahamas , 15 September 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/450fb0c329.html [accessed 18 April 2014]|
International Religious Freedom Report 2006
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, September 15, 2006. Covers the period from July 1, 2005, to June 30, 2006.
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice.
There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.
The generally amicable relationship among religious groups in society contributed to religious freedom.
The U.S. government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.
Section I. Religious Demography
The country has a total area of 13,939 square miles and a population of approximately 340,000, including those residing in the country illegally. The country was ethnically diverse and included a Haitian minority of legal and illegal immigrants estimated at 40,000 to 60,000 persons and a white/European minority nearly as large.
More than 90 percent of the population professed a religion, and anecdotal evidence suggested that most attended services regularly. The country's religious profile reflected this diversity. Protestant Christian denominations, including Baptists (35 percent), Anglicans (15 percent), Presbyterians, Methodists, evangelicals, and Seventh-day Adventists were in the majority, but there were also significant Roman Catholic (14 percent) and Greek Orthodox populations. Smaller Jewish, Baha'i, and Muslim communities also were active. A small number of Bahamians and Haitians, particularly those living in the Family Islands, practiced Obeah, a version of voodoo. A small but stable number of citizens identified themselves as Rastafarians, while some members of the country's small resident Guyanese and Indian populations practiced Hinduism and other South Asian religions. Although many unaffiliated Protestant congregations were almost exclusively Black, most mainstream churches were integrated racially.
Section II. Status of Religious Freedom
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. The Government at all levels sought to protect this right in full and did not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.
The constitution requires the Government to guarantee respect for Christian values, and there is often reference to the country's strong Christian heritage and Christian themes in general in political and public discourse. The constitution specifically forbids infringement of a person's freedom to change religion.
Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Whit Monday are national holidays.
Churches and other religious congregations do not face any special registration requirements, although they must incorporate legally to purchase land. There are no legal provisions to encourage or discourage the formation of religious communities, which are required to pay the same tariffs and stamp taxes as for-profit companies once they legally incorporate.
The Government permits foreign clergy and missionaries to enter the country and to proselytize and practice their religion without restriction.
Religion is recognized as an academic subject at government schools, and it is included in mandatory standardized achievement and certificate tests for all students. The country's Christian heritage has a heavy influence on religion classes in government-supported schools, which focus on the study of Christian philosophy, biblical texts, and, to a lesser extent, comparative and non-Christian religions in a Christian context. The constitution allows students, or their guardians in the case of minors, to decline to participate in religious education and observance in schools; this right, although rarely exercised, was respected in practice.
The Government meets regularly with religious leaders, both publicly and privately, to discuss social, political, and economic concerns. Christian pastors exerted significant influence over politics and society.
Restrictions on Religious Freedom
Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion.
The practice of Obeah is illegal, and those caught practicing it or attempting to intimidate, steal, inflict disease, or restore a person to health under the guise of Obeah are liable to three months' imprisonment.
Some Rastafarians claimed discrimination by the Government, citing forced cutting of hair, police harassment, and unequal treatment of Rastafarian students. In August 2005 police raided the Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress True Church of Divine Salvation during a Rastafarian religious service, disrupting the ceremony, demonstrating a lack of respect for church practices and sanctuary, and briefly detaining worshippers.
There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.
Forced Religious Conversion
There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.
Section III. Societal Abuses and Discrimination
The generally amicable relationship among religious groups in society contributed to religious freedom. There were several interdenominational organizations and ecumenical movements. These groups freely expressed their opinions on social, political, and economic topics.
Society was at times less tolerant of religions perceived as foreign, particularly Rastafarianism, Obeah, and voodoo. Some citizens publicly called the poverty and political unrest in Haiti signs of God's disapproval of the practice of voodoo.
Section IV. U.S. Government Policy
The U.S. government discussed religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.